Ninety per cent of hospital waste, including hazardous material, is being dumped untreated and unsorted in open areas in Shadbagh, Shadman and Shalimar Link Road, an Environment Protection Department (EPD) official told The Express Tribune.
The EPD is currently doing a survey of 132 hospitals and clinics in these areas and inspectors have raised 60 clinics so far, most of them ranging from 10- to 50-bed facilities. In almost all cases, waste was being dumped in open spaces without separation of the infectious material from waste posing no health risk, said EPD inspector Yasir Gul.
“There is no colour coding or incineration system in place,” he said. “There is no check on the sanitation teams at these clinics and how they dispose of waste.” Gul, accompanied by an assistant director and a research officer, visits ten hospitals a day.
Clinics violating the Hospital Waste Management Rules 2005 are issued environmental protection orders. If there is no compliance within three weeks, the cases are forwarded to an environment tribunal. Action against these units is taken under Clauses 268, 269, 270 and 277 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC).
Dr Tariq Mehmood, who runs Tariq Hospital in Shadbagh, said that the owners of several clinics, following a series of EPD raids and fines to 33 hospitals in Lahore in 2008, had proposed to the government a committee to come up with a deal whereby the owners and the government could together put up waste incineration plants. “But we got no response,” he said. Dr Mehmood said that infectious waste from his hospital was burnt in a small backyard before being buried in the same yard.
District Officer (Environment) Tariq Zaman said only two of the city’s six incineration units were functional. “This is insufficient for effective disposal of hospitals waste,” he said.
He said about 80 per cent of the 15 tonnes of hospital waste generated each day is recycled to make children’s toys and plastic furniture. “There are around 60 factories that buy used plastic bags and syringes for Rs20 a kg, crush it and then sell it for Rs120 per kg,” he said.
According to a World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) manual, hospital waste must be sorted into different categories – no-risk waste, sharps (syringes and blades), hazardous waste (biological waste, plastic bags and containers), and specific hazardous (pharmaceutical waste or heavy metals) – and dumped separately in colour-coded bags.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 26th, 2011.